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Cape Horn Recreation Plan Moves Forward

Posted by Ryan Ojerio at Feb 03, 2010 11:25 AM |

The Forest Service plan for developing the Cape Horn Trail passed a major milestone yesterday when the 45-day appeal period ended without a legal challenge.

Cape Horn View

Meanwhile the planning process for Coyote Wall and Catherine Creek has been mired in controversy, stalling needed action to prevent further damage to that sensitive area.

Cape Horn Plan includes seasonal trail closure

The Cape Horn Recreation Plan was forged through a lengthy collaborative process involving the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Cape Horn Conservancy, Friends of the Gorge and other stakeholders. The planning process was complicated by the fact that hiking enthusiasts had already constructed an unsanctioned trail that then became very popular with many hikers. The Forest Service was less than enthusiastic about adopting a trail that has significant issues with user safety, impacts to sensitive habitats and nearby residents.

The most controversial aspect of the plan calls for seasonal closure from January 1st to July 1st on the lower portion of the trail to minimize disturbance to nesting peregrine falcons. Such a closure denies access to the most spectacular portion of the trail during the time of year when low elevation hiking options are limited. Now that the plan is official, closure signs will be posted at a viewpoint know as Fir Point which is atop the lower cliffs south of Hwy 14. One improvement that everyone is excited about is the installation of underpasses below Hwy 14 that will allow safe passage between the upper and lower trail segments.

The plan also calls for some trail reroutes, new bridges, viewing platforms and eventually the upper portion will have a day use area, parking lot and an accessible trail. Trail maintenance and re-route work will begin this spring, and WTA is applying for funds in partnership with the Forest Service to purchase materials for foot bridge construction planned for this fall.

Coyote Wall and Catherine Creek plan revision due this spring

Further up the Columbia River near Bingen, WA a similar process to manage recreation has been underway at Coyote Wall and Catherine Creek. Unlike Cape Horn where hikers are the primary trail user group, the Coyote Wall/Catherine Creek area is popular with mountain bikers, hikers, wildflower enthusiasts, equestrians and hunters. Despite a lengthy collaborative process, the Forest Service recreation plan was met with multiple appeals. Consequently, the plan was pulled back to the drawing board then set on the backburner as attention focused on Cape Horn in order to meet a Washington Department of Transportation deadline pertaining to the underpasses planned there.

According to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, a revised draft recreation plan is due for public review and comment this spring. To follow all of these issues in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, bookmark its Schedule of Proposed Action page.